As a native Midwesterner I have a deep love of my car and a deep seated mistrust of public transportation, especially public transportation in an area that’s not known for keeping to a set schedule very well. To date almost all of our visitors here have had the luxury of riding in style to and from the Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen with the very reliable Jason and Deidre airport shuttle service. Unfortunately that shuttle service couldn’t help when the both of us left town recently, and we didn’t want to leave our car parked at the airport for an extended period of time so we had to investigate the best, most cost-effective options to get to and from the Cancun airport.
There are a multitude of shuttle services that you can hire will provide private or shared transportation to and from the airport for around $60-$80 each way. You can also rent a car, take a taxi or the collectivo which will get you there very, very cheaply — it just might be a few hours because of all the stops along the way.
For us the best option to get to and from Playa del Carmen to the Cancun airport (and the one that several people recommended) was the ADO bus.
At $120 pesos (about $9 US) each way the bus is not only super affordable it’s also, clean, modern, air-conditioned and runs very close to schedule. No need to pay for an expensive taxi or rent a car just to get to Playa – taking the bus from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen is really easy and I’d recommend it to almost anyone.
The methods for buying tickets and catching the bus vary based on whether you’re arriving at Cancun Airport and headed to Playa or vice versa so I’ve broken it down below.
Bus from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen:
Very simple, once you clear customs just run the gauntlet of time share salesmen and taxi drivers until you are outside the terminal and then turn right. Look for the buses at the end of the terminal and walk towards them, if it takes more than a minute you’re probably going the wrong way so turn around. There will be a little podium labeled ADO and that’s where you buy your tickets. Tickets are $120 pesos and both dollars and pesos are accepted but I’d recommend having exact change ready (I don’t think they take credit cards). The buses arrive about every 30 minutes or so and the ticket guy can give you an estimate of the next arrival time. As each bus arrives the ticket guy will announce where it is going, Cancun or Playa. When the next bus to Playa del Carmen arrives stow your large luggage (checked bags) underneath and hop on. Seating is open so just grab a seat that looks good, put your carry on bag in the overhead bin and settle in for a relaxing hour or so ride to Playa. The bus will drop you at the ADO station at Juarez and 5th Avenue and from there it’s easy to hail a cab or walk to your final destination.
Bus from Playa del Carmen to Cancun Airport:
This step is a little more complex but still pretty simple. There are two ADO bus stations in Playa, the “old” station at Juarez and 5th Avenue and the “new” or “alterna” station close to Mega at Ave 20 and Calle 12 and both will take you to the Cancun Airport. However, the same bus picks up at the old station and then proceeds to the new one so I’d recommend departing from the new station to save yourself a few minutes on the bus. Either way, decide which station you want to depart from and go to that station to purchase your ticket (they do take credit cards at the station). ADO has a website but not all of the times are listed, sometimes it doesn’t work and I don’t know anyone who’s ever used it to purchase a ticket. My recommendation is that you purchase a ticket for the bus leaving about 3 hours before your flight’s departure time, that should give you ample time to get to the airport, clear security etc. You also might want to purchase your ticket a day or two ahead of time to ensure that you get a spot on the right bus.
The day of your bus ride arrive at the station a few minutes early and wait for the bus to pull in that has a huge plane and “Aeropuerto” painted on the side. That’s your very obvious queue that the bus to the airport is about to board so head outside. Once again you’ll have to load your own luggage and seating is open so drop your bags underneath, grab a seat and enjoy the ride. Upon arrival at the Cancun Airport the bus will drop you right outside your terminal but – here’s the catch – it will stop outside each terminal so make sure you get off at the right one.
If someone as inept at public transportation as me can take the bus from the Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen, you can to. However, if you’re worried about making it to your destination at an exact time than perhaps you might want to choose a different mode of transport. Then again, if you’re that worried about being on time, why are you coming to Playa del Carmen in the first place? Relax, the beach will still be here when you get here!